Steeped In Tradition, The Coming Of Age Of The Indian Army
The True Soldier Fights Not Because He Hates What Is In Front Of Him, But Because He Loves What Is Behind Him – G K Chesterton
Native Armies of India – Tradition of Valour and Indomitable Spirit
Yesterday was 14th January, the anniversary of 3Rd Panipat War
Today is 15th January, the Army Day
There is a paradox and oxymoron assimilated in these two incidences that mark these subsequent days.
I wished to write on Panipat yesterday, but it is a grossly misconstrued war, both in terms of essence and conclusion. A lot is written on this third war of Panipat. It was a series of battles that culminated in the final war.
To begin with, the Panipat War was not fought on Makar Sankranti. It was fought on 14th January 1761. Confused? Well, in 1761 Makar Sankranti used to fall on 10th January. The Panipat War was fought on 14th January. The Sun over the years has transgressed minute by minute to 14th January for changing its sign!
So, recent posts linking the Panipat War to Makar Sankranti are sort of amusing. Hence, I decided to have a write-up today instead of yesterday, to coincide with Army Day, instead of adding to yesterday’s misconstrued concept.
Much has been written about the Panipat War, so I won’t run over the same affairs here, rather, I would like to write about the military tradition that started with the Panipat War.
Native Indian Armies prior to Panipat War were hordes of scattered discipline , not uniform with modern strategic warfare, in the medieval period. It was due to the Panipat War that the dominant Maratha Force in this country woke up to the fact that with the influx of modern equipment and advent of technology, conventional methods of warfare and disciplined regiments were required.
The advent of Mahadji Shinde, the sole survivor of House of Shindes from Panipat War, on the scene of Indian polity ushered in modern warfare techniques. The Europeans were adept in such warfare , rather, they were the originators of modern warfare techniques due to advent of technological revolution in Europe. The captains and generals of European military found ready employment with Indian Warlords and Governors for training their armies. Mahadji, who injured his leg in Panipat War, was one of the first to employ European military officers to train his armies.
After the Panipat War, Maratha armies trained by European officers, reclaimed their supremacy as the ultimate power in India. The rising influence of British troops was halted by Mahadji Shinde with his armies trained by French and Dutch officers. Diplomatic acumen and trained army helped Mahadji resurrect the Maratha dominance in Delhi.
Delhi was grossly under misrule post Panipat. The Emperor was exiled and British interference in affairs of Delhi was telling. The ministers in Delhi court had made the entity of ruler of Delhi a puppet. Mahadji reinstalled Shah Alam II in 1771 as the rightful Mughal Emperor on the throne of Delhi. The British were subdued by the treaties of Wadgaon and Salbai. The Afghans were routed out of Punjab and SirHind region. The Rohilla and Jat domination in Delhi was broken. The Rajputs of Jaipur and Jodhpur were also checked. Mahadji achieved this with his army trained by European officers.
Nizam of Hyderabad also followed suit, training his army with European officers. In 1795, Maratha power was at its peak. The Nizam of Hyderabad was routed in the battle of Kharda. Essentially, both armies were trained by Europeans. This was an era when native Indian Armies who fought each other were following the new disciplined European war techniques.
Maratha Forces trained by French Perron effectively defeated Nizam’s forces trained by Dutch De Boigne.
As the British took over India, most of these native regiments were disbanded. But, certain regiments such as Maratha, Madras, Sikh and Rajput were incorporated in the East India Company and later, Royal British Indian Army .
These regiments brought accolades to the British Crown and particularly, saved Britain’s face in the war, including its allies. The Maratha Regiment still holds a place of pride in annual French Victory Day celebrations.
Field Marshall Cariappa was one such soldier who had risen through British ranks and won many accolades from the Crown. When India became independent in 1947, then Lt Gen Cariappa was instrumental in annexing Kashmir after the Instrument of Accession to Indian Union was signed by Raja Hari Singh. He drove out Pakistani invaders and reclaimed the crucial valleys and peaks, before US intervention brought a cease fire. Thereafter, in the subsequent war of 1948, Indian forces drove out the hostile neighbors from Kashmir.
Today is Army Day!
On January 15, 1949, Lieutenant General Kodandera Madappa Cariappa took over as the first Chief of Staff of the Indian Army from Lieutenant General Sir Roy Bucher.
This day, when a native Indian military officer took over as Army Chief, is annually commemorated as Army Day.
He was instrumental in inducting Subhash Chandra Bose’s Indian National Army cadets into independent India’s Army.
He adopted INA’s slogan “Jai Hind” which became a greeting of the Indian Army.
He also turned down proposed caste reservation quota in the Indian Army. He kept the Indian Army autonomous and turned down any political interference in its operations.
The day of his appointment as Indian Army Chief is thus aptly observed as Army Day.
The tradition of the Indian Army which was integrity, valor and bravery has been unparalleled in the post world war era, since. The secular fabric of the Army has been unshakeable through the ages.
The tradition of putting country before self has been the same since Panipat War 1761. Be it aggression by enemies, natural calamities or internal security. The sacrifice and professionalism of the Indian Army has remained unquestioned .
On this Army Day, we salute army men, officers and ex service men.